Cuba votes on same-sex marriage referendum

The Church and part of the opposition have campaigned for ‘No’.

Cuban polling stations have opened at 7.00 a.m. (13.00, Spanish peninsular time) for the referendum vote on the new Code of Families, a legislative package that provides for the approval of same-sex marriage, surrogacy and adoption by same-sex couples and that has been opposed by the Episcopal Conference of the island.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and his wife, Lis Cuesta, voted at 7:48 a.m. (local time) in College 3 of Constituency 57, in the municipality of Playa de La Habana, according to Cuban media.

“Today is the appointment with the future. The #25DeSept. has arrived, a day to change “everything that must be changed” in Family Law in #Cuba. See you in front of the ballot box. #CodigoSí,” Díaz-Canel posted on Twitter.

“This Code started from the popular debate, from a social need. In recent years our society has become more heterogeneous, Cuban families have changed and new types of relationships have appeared. There were debts with the treatment from the legal norms to certain issues of inheritance and affection, and I think it was fair that they were taken into account at a time like this,” argued the president in statements reported by the official portal CubaDebate.

For Díaz-Canel, “the expectation is not that it will be a unanimous vote, but I think it will be a majority vote by our people”.

The approval of the Family Code has become the main obsession of the pro-government sectors which, led by Díaz-Canel himself, have launched an intense campaign on social networks to promote the vote in favor of the project under the slogan ‘Code, yes’ and has even referred to the day as “a day of celebration for Cuba”.

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Although the referendum kicks off on Sunday on the island, voting has already concluded abroad, where, according to official figures, more than 22,000 people — including diplomats and those who “for official reasons” are abroad — have already exercised their right to vote.

One of the main groups against the renewal of the Family Code has been the Cuban Church, which has even adhered to statements attributed to Cuban independence leader José Martí in which he defined “love” as “the ardent and unconditional adhesion that an individual of one sex feels towards an individual of the other.”

In this sense, the Church has defended that marriage between man and woman is “natural” and cannot be “displaced or deformed” to make way for other legal formulas since “the original plan of the creator is this.”

In mid-September, the Cuban bishops issued a communiqué in which they expressed their disagreement with the legislative project since they consider that the introduction of the “gender ideology” is not beneficial for families, as well as pointing out as negative the possibility for minors to assume their gender identity.

Regarding adoption between same-sex couples, the Church denounces that this contravenes “what by nature corresponds to and needs” a minor: “a father and a mother.” “Every child is a gift and an end in itself; it is a child’s right to have a father and a mother.” In the same vein, they have also charged against surrogacy by not considering it unethical.

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Despite this, the Cuban bishops do consider positive aspects such as the rejection of domestic violence, the defense of the rights and care of the elderly and those with disabilities. They have also praised the protection of children and pregnant women.

“This, however, cannot overlook the questions, criticisms and rejections of an important sector of society, which are based on legitimate principles, values, human and biological sciences, our history, traditions and religious beliefs of our people,” the Church has pointed out.

For all this, the Cuban Episcopal Conference has made an appeal to the “conscience and responsibility” of the Cuban population, whether they are believers or not, to vote with conscience not only for the current generations, but also for the future ones. “May Mary of Charity, our mother and patroness, intercede for each one of her Cuban children so that we make the right decision”, they concluded.

Other voices critical of the Government, such as singer Yotuel Romero or playwright Yunior García Aguilera, have questioned the vote and have advocated for abstention, not so much for its content, but for the fact that the authorities submit to referendum issues “of common sense”, while they impose the rest of decisions on the island.

Similarly, the prominent Cuban opposition Guillermo Fariñas has even assured that participating in the vote “is to accept an institutionalized fraud”, at the same time that he has openly campaigned for the ‘no’. “The Family Code is a hypocritical maneuver of affective manipulation”, he has affirmed.

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